Socialist Worker

Support London Met University union rep Max Watson

by Sadie Robinson
Issue No. 2407

London Met university workers and students lobby in support of Max and Jawad last year

London Met university workers and students lobby in support of Max and Jawad last year (Pic: Guy Smallman)


Max Watson, a Unison union rep at London Metropolitan University, has launched an appeal against a decision dismissing a complaint he had brought against bosses. Max said he had suffered detriment after bosses targeted him because of his union activities. An Employment Tribunal dismissed this claim.

Max became a research administrator at London Met in 2006. Bosses suspended him in 2013 saying they were investigating a “serious matter of concern”. 

This related to the employment of Jawad Botmeh at the university in 2008.

Jawad had been found guilty of conspiracy to cause explosions in 1996. Socialist Worker journalist Paul Foot and others campaigned for his release, arguing that he was wrongly convicted. 

The judgement said there were concerns of “reputational risk” after Jawad was elected as a staff governor in 2013 and his conviction “came to light”. This conviction was listed on Jawad’s personnel file. The judgement also confirms that the panel that initially interviewed Jawad in 2008 “were aware of Mr Botmeh’s conviction”.

Bosses suspended Max for potential gross misconduct after discussing his “involvement in the recruitment of Mr Botmeh” in 2013. 

Clear

The judgement made clear that management was “irritated” by union activity at the university.

One email from executive officer Jonathan Woodhead complained of Max ranting in “true SWP style” during a protest.

Another email, from university secretary and clerk to the board Alison Wells to a member of her team, said “there was no plague virulent enough” for Max. 

The judgement described this as “banter”. 

An email from deputy chief executive Paul Bowler to vice chancellor Malcolm Gilles said “they had the unions on the back foot, well done”. A further email from Bowler denounced “bully-boy tactics of the 1970s unions”.

The judgement said, “It was clear that the claimant was seen by at least some members of senior management as a thorn in the side”. It said Max “had been active and public and had increased the membership of his union”. 

The UCU union passed an emergency motion last year that said the suspension of Max and Jawad “is a clear case of victimisation of trade union activists in Higher Education”.

It resolved to express “full solidarity and support” to the campaign to reinstate Max and Jawad and to support protests and industrial action as part of the campaign.

Max has been advised not to speak to the press while the appeal process is underway.


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